Submarine designers are using virtual reality technology to design futuristic military vessels. Here are some of the new advances we can expect in the coming years.
Mixed Reality Submarine Design
Modern submarine designers use virtual walkthroughs of the vessel to look at it in an immersive environment and even touch it before it’s built. This enables them to see where the design needs improvement and to make operational recommendations.
‘Life-of-Ship’ Reactor Core
The US Navy’s new Columbia class SSBNs will be the most advanced and deadly in the world, with reactor cores built to last for their entire 42-year lifespan, saving $40 billion over that time.
The Columbia class will feature a joystick control system with a built-in computer that uses algorithms to maintain the vessel’s course and depth by sending signals to the rudder and stern.
Forget the traditional submarine periscope – the Columbia class will boast a camera mast instead, connected to a fibre-optic cable that allows the crew to see surface images without needing to stand near the periscope. This enables designers to move the command and control areas to larger parts of the vessel.
The US Navy is working to create the world’s sneakiest submarines, with engine-quieting technologies and soundproofed hulls coupled with state-of-the-art sensors to enable them to detect enemy activities without being detected themselves.
However, China has created shaftless pump-jet propulsion technology as a silent alternative to traditional engines, as well as the world’s first integrated electrical propulsion system (IEPS). to run on medium-voltage direct current. Together, these technologies drastically reduce the number of moving parts and therefore the noise of the submarine. The US and UK won’t have this option until the Columbia class launches in 2030.
To counter these silencing efforts, smart detection systems are being developed that don’t rely on noise and may make manned submarine missions much more dangerous in future. Lower-frequency sonar, wake detection, underwater lasers and LEDs are all being tested. The principles behind these methods have been understood for decades, but we’ve only recently developed the computer processing power required to use them. Big data now enables navies to run complex, real-time oceanographic models to spot even the most silent submarine.